Eugene McDaniels – Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse
Headless Heroes of
(LabelM – 2001)
by Matthew S. Robinson
This is soul. Not Al Green soul. Not Isaac Hayes soul (but perhaps a bit closer to that). This is the soul of the black man. It is the soul of a student of history who is sick and tired of force-feeding and ready to spit back. This is the soul of a man tired of the system and using his art to reframe and correct it. When it first came out in 1971, Eugene McDaniels’ vitriolic statement irked and ired many, including Vice President Spiro Agnew, who personally contacted Atlantic Records to demand that the album be shelved.
Despite this high praise from such a high post, the album’s music and message has survived in the hearts and minds of music lovers (including The Beastie Boys, who sampled a piece of McDaniels’ wisdom on Ill Communication) and has now been revived in the equally aware hands of Producer Joel Dorn.
Though the abum may be a grand departure from McDaniel’s earlier hit, “Compared to What,” it’s provocative soothe continues to reverberate. Predicting the coming of Acid Jazz and even Gangster Rap, McDaniels covers both the topics of his time – from the horoscopic groove of “Lovin’ Man” to the androgynous murder of “Jagger the Dagger” – and of times past and still present in sharp-eyed chronicles like “Headless Heroes,” “Supermarket Blues,” the subtly bomb-bastic “Freedom Death Dance” and “The Parasite” (which may be dedicated to Native American artiast and activist Buffy St.Marie).
Wrapping his sharp words in cozy key lines and absorbent rhythms, McDaniels tells it like it is and rarely shirks the truth. Though “Susan Jane” is a jangly Dylan-esque exercise in simple rhyme, it acts as a necessary break from McDaniels’ torrential attacks of conscience.
© 2001, M.S. Robinson, ARR